Monday, October 27, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Fury - 01.26

- Opponent: Ottawa Fury
- Location: Ottawa, Canada
- Attendance: 4,172
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Nicht, Frias, Norales (Captain), Miller, Franco, Smith, Pena, Mares, Pineda, Jhulliam, Rugg
- Substitutions: Ambersley 53' (Jhulliam), Smart 62' (Smith), Moore 90' (Mares)
- Goals: Jhulliam 29' (unassisted), Pineda 89' (assist Smart)
- Bookings: Pineda 90' (Yellow), Pena 90' (Red)

Confidence breeds confidence.  That was my takeaway from last week's game against San Antonio and that continues to be my takeaway after this week's game against Ottawa.  The official stats for the game show a 52/48 possession advantage for the Eleven, but nearly every tweet I saw related to the game yesterday seemed like that stat should have been much higher.  There were a number of times this season where the team seemed like things were coming together only to see it slip away, usually with a defensive lapse or giving up the dreaded adage goals (which they did again for the first time in awhile).  Yet, there is something different about this team recently and their confidence level seems to be much higher and they are playing that way.  They feel like they can compete and win with every single team now and they are getting the results of their effort and confidence.

At various points this season, the idea of a shutout streak longer than a game seemed out of reach and maybe an impossibility.  Yet prior to the late adage goal scored by Ottawa, Nicht went 397 minutes without conceding a goal.  A month's worth of games, starting with the loss against Carolina on September 27th, and the team didn't allow a single goal.  Three of the five games during that period were against the top teams in the league in Minnesota, San Antonio, and New York.  That's a run of defensive and goalkeeping not seen in the modern era of the NASL.  Three hundred ninety-seven is the official number by the team and the league, but I wanted to see the full magnitude of the shut out streak so I went back and found how much stoppage time was included at the end of each half of those games (remember that 7 minutes of stoppage time delaying the pitch invasion against Minnesota?) .  There was an additional 29 minutes of stoppage time where the team kept the ball out of the net.  For a team that has struggled through much of the season to keep a clean sheet, the run is all the more impressive when you know that they did it for an additional third of a game beyond what they were given credit.  Congrats boys!

Last week saw Rugg score a goal thanks to the effort from Ambersley to stick with the ball and found a wide open Rugg.  This week, Jhulliam's goal was pure hustle and effort and reminded me of many of the lazy defensive passes that plagued the Eleven early in the season.  He made the run back to intercept the pass from Richter to Peiser, made a perfect one touch to get himself around the keeper, and put the ball smoothly into the goal from a tough angle.  Hustle and heart.  Even though they were eliminated from The Championship a few weeks ago, this team has had those traits this season and the last two games have shown that they're going to fight until the end.

Don't look now, but if the Eleven can continue this win streak to four by beating Tampa Bay and get some help from Minnesota and San Antonio, they will finish the Fall Season alone in 5th place.  Not exactly last to first, but that's a significant step in the right direction between Spring and Fall.  A win would also mean that the team would finish the Fall Season at 7-7-4 after going 0-5-4 in the Spring.  A lot of credit goes to this team for continuing to improve and the front office for continuing to work to find players who could help provide additional help as injuries continued to happen.

The team will be without Pena who picked up a "where was your head" red card in the closing minutes of the game.  I love that he was defending his teammate, but he went too far in doing so and deservedly received the red card.  That's going to leave a big gap in the midfield against Tampa Bay, especially if Kleberson is still unable to play.  If Kleberson is not able to contribute, I count 16 healthy players available for Coach Sommer and two of those are keepers.  So 14 available field players and Coach has used 14 for nearly every game.  We might see some additional playing time by Corrado and Moore in this one.

I still have a good feeling about Saturday's game.

I suppose a 4-game unbeaten streak will do that to a fan base.

UPDATE: Congratulations Jhulliam and Miller for being named to this week's Team of the Week.  Well deserved!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Scorpions - 01.25

- Opponent: San Antonio Scorpions
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 10,982
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Nicht, Frias, Norales (Captain), Miller, Franco, Smart, Pena, Mares, Pineda, Ambersley, Rugg
- Substitutions: Jhulliam 69' (Smart), Moore 85' (Mares), Smith 90' (Ambersley)
- Goals: Rugg 56' (assist Ambersley)
- Bookings: Moore 90' (Yellow)

Confidence is a fickle thing. For individuals, confidence can come and go at a whim.  For an entire team of players, you never know when it’s going to be there, how long it will stay, or what will bring it crashing to the ground.  In soccer, sometimes that confidence stems from the offense.  When the team knows that defensive lapses can often be overcome by the offensive prowess of the team, the team plays with an emotion where they feel they can’t lose.  That they are always in games, even if they give up a goal and are playing from behind.  While they have a spectacular defense and goalie behind them, I think of the United States Women’s National Team in this way.  They have trust in their midfields and forwards to continue to give them chances to win a game as long as there is time on the referee’s watch.

Sometimes, and I think the Indy Eleven are falling into this category lately, the confidence comes from the defense.  They aren’t really scoring any more goals lately than they were in previous games, but they seem to have found four healthy guys who have meshed well together on the backline and a goalkeeper behind them that is simply playing out of his mind right now.  Due to a number of factors, the team has been forced to shuffle around the defensive four for a great deal of the season.  Stone, Estridge, Ring, Okiomah, Norales, etc… They all played well when healthy, but it never seemed like they were all healthy or together for extended stretches.  Recently though, the team has a string of 4 games where the back line has consisted of Franco-Norales-Miller-Frias.  The foursome seem to have found a rhythm that is working and are correctly covering for each other when mistakes are made.  Add in Nicht’s spectacular goalkeeping and some timely defense by the woodwork, and the team seems to have figured out that if they can keep themselves in games defensively, they are going to get some good chances on the offensive side in which the midfield and forwards are more than capable of capitalizing.

Confidence gets you a first home win against a formidable opponent.  Confidence gets you a second home win against a second formidable opponent. Confidence gets you a two-game win streak.  Confidence gets you a three-game unbeaten streak.  Confidence gets you a 307-minute shutout streak. 

Confidence breeds confidence.

Like last week’s game against Minnesota, Saturday’s game against San Antonio had a similar “chippy” feel to it, especially in the second half even though there were much fewer cards.  Like I said last week, that happens when a team comes in thinking they are going to get an easy win against a cellar dweller and find themselves losing.  It also helps that the cellar dweller is a team that never gives up and continues to fight until the end.  There aren’t a lot of times that I feel like Cory Miller or Erick Norales are going to get muscled off a ball, but when San Antonio brought in HagridHassli, I had serious concerns.  He looked like he towered over Miller, who is not a small guy.  It turned out I had unfounded concerns, but not without some serious effort by Norales and Miller.  I was never a big guy so I learned from an early age that a well-timed and hidden jersey pull could give me the slightest of edge to balance things.  Miller had a moment on Saturday that even made me think it was a bit much.  Either the ref (and assistant ref) didn’t see what I saw, or they too thought that Miller needed a little help against Hagrid, I mean Hassli.

Some thoughts on the game:
  • While it was great to see Ambersley back in the lineup, I thought his touch was a little heavy for most of the game.  His hustle never diminished, but his first touch seemed to fail him on more than one occasion.  His hustle is what created Rugg's goal, which is one of the NASL Plays of the Week.
  • Nicht’s goal against average does not do justice for what he has meant to this team this season, but particularly in the most recent run of games.
  • Pena still strikes a ball from further out than I would like (minus his well struck ball in the 38th minute), but I have no problems with his connectivity between the defense and the forwards.
  • I said it last week that Frias has not been my favorite player this season, but he continued to play well again on Saturday.  I still think that the Norales-Miller central backs has helped his play, but he is definitely more improved lately.
  • Smart does good things and makes great runs.  He deserves to be one of the two players to have played in every game, and maybe even deserved some additional time in those games.
  • The Indy Eleven once again on the losing side of a fairly drastic 60/40 possession battle, but it didn't feel that way during the run of play.

The Indy Eleven’s home schedule is finished with only away games against Ottawa and Tampa Bay remaining.  Games that could be winnable, especially given the Eleven’s current form and confidence.  So with the last of the home games in the books, I thought I would take a minute this week and look back at how the off-the-field team did between game #1 and game #15.  After the first game, when everything seemed to go poorly, from concessions, to traffic, to parking, the team did a very smart thing and stated that they did not get things accomplished as well as they should have and sought input from the fans on what they could do better.  Since I spent a very large amount of time standing in a concession line and missed the first goal ever scored by the team (yeah, I’m still a little bitter), I gave my input into the first night’s issues. From the second game forward, I have not had an issue with any aspect of the off-field effort by the Indy Eleven.  Even during the long-delayed rain game against Ottawa, the team did an excellent job of safety and keeping people informed of the changes through their social media outlets.  At Saturday’s game, the team decided to have a “fan appreciation” combo meal made available at the concession stand.  I was at the game earlier than normal and decided to partake and had an issue with the concession staff, who it turns out had some miscommunication between their staff.  However, I went to the Guest Services booth for a clarification, was quickly helped by Mike Henn, who then recruited help from Tom Dunmore, who got it resolved with the concession’s manager.  In fact, by the time I was able to get my combos, the issue was getting resolved internally with the concession staff.  I appreciated the fact that Tom asked the concession stand to comp my combos while I waited for them to figure out the miscommunication, but more than the free food, my belief was confirmed that the Indy Eleven staff will do whatever they can, as quickly as they can, to resolve any issue to be able to make the gameday experience as enjoyable as possible for the fans.

While the team did not enjoy the on-field home success we, and they, wanted this season, I think it was a successful step towards things in the future.  We started seeing positive results on the field and the off-field activities were enjoyable throughout the year.  I’m ready for next season and this one isn't even officially finished.

Update: Norales and Pena made this week's Team of the Week and Rugg's goal was Goal of the Week!  Congrats fellas!

Friday, October 17, 2014

USWNT World Cup Qualifier vs Trinidad and Tobago

Anybody see the lineup for the U.S. Women's World Cup Qualifier versus Trinidad and Tobago from Wednesday night?

They called this a 4-3-3, but with Wambach shown in that midfield, that looks a lot like a 4-2-4 to me.  Granted, it's not exactly how I thought Coach Ellis should do it, especially with Rapinoe in the forward line, but Wambach is a forward.  That is a 4-2-4, disguised as a 4-3-3.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Indy Eleven vs United - 01.24

- Opponent: Minnesota United
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 10,285
- Final Score: 2-0 W
- Starting XI: Nicht, Frias, Norales (Captain), Miller, Franco, Smart, Johnson, Pena, Mares, Pineda, Rugg
- Substitutions: Jhulliam 46' (Johnson), Kleberson 75' (Mares), Moore 90' (Pineda)
- Goals: Pineda 8' (assist Rugg), Jhulliam 46' (Smart)
- Bookings: Rugg 35' (Yellow), Frias 54' (Yellow), Pena 63' (Yellow)

There’s so much to talk about with this game.  I had written down 11 topics to discuss (ok, it was actually 13, but I liked to see the 11 written there) before I had even sat down to rewatch the match.

Where to start though?

Oh yeah!  The Eleven finally won a league home game!  It took a lot more tries than anybody thought it would take and it came against one of the most improbable opponents in the league leading Minnesota United, but the team finally had the pieces come together to get them that first home “W.” Nearly the rest of the discussion pales in comparison to the King Kong sized monkey that was extracted from the backs of the players on Saturday, but let’s dive into the details a little.

For the first time all season, Mike Ambersley didn’t make an appearance in a game.  Presumably, his late exit from the Cosmos game was determined to be a concussion and either he was not cleared to play by the medical staff or Coach Sommer decided that given the late stage of the season with the team eliminated from the Championship contention, he would try yet another lineup and let Ambersley have another week to rest since he wasn’t even listed as an available substitute.  That just leaves Nicht and Smart who have played in every single Indy Eleven game.

The former continued his run of playing every single minute despite an injury that got Jon Dawson off the bench and warming up only to find himself sitting on the bench again as Nicht continued. Whether the injury bothered him much is hard to say because he played like a man possessed, stopping all eight of Minnesota’s shots.  We did notice that there seemed to be fewer drop kicks from Kristian after the injury though and more outlet passes or long throws to get the ball started.  The rare instances where he kicked after the injury brought a noticeable limp for a few steps.  I haven’t heard if that will affect him moving forward.

Don’t look now, but Kristian is working on a 2+ game shutout streak.  Since he gave up the goal against Carolina in the 53rd minute, the fiery keeper hasn’t let a ball get past him; I think it’s officially 217 minutes, but there was about ten minutes of stoppage time added just to the Minnesota game so the number if unofficially higher.  He was finally rewarded for his recent stellar play by being named to the NASL Team of the Week.  Way to go Kristian!

Smart not only continued his streak of playing, but also added a start to his stats and played the full ninety minutes.  His assist in the opening minute of the second half was a perfectly placed ball into the front of the Minnesota goal.  Smart does good things when he is in.  I’m never going to figure out why he doesn’t get more minutes.

16 seconds.  16 seconds is what it took for the Indy Eleven to double their lead coming out of halftime.  We’ve become accustomed to being on the wrong side of these adage goals, so it was nice to see the team be able to have a bit of a cushion as they played the rest of the game.  I'm not sure of the halftime possession stat, but the final stats indicated a nearly 60/40 split in favor of the Loons.  That second goal allowed the Eleven to sit into a more defensive stance as a team without the absolute necessity of trying to get another goal.

What happens when you have the league leading team losing to one of the last place teams desperately trying to get their first home win?  Things get physical.  There were 5 yellow cards shown (3 for Indy, 2 for Minnesota), but there was a least one instance where a red card could/should have been issued (see the take down of Johnson late in the first half).  A casualty of one of those yellow cards is that Frias was issued his fifth card of the season, meaning that he will be unavailable to play against San Antonio this weekend.  I’ve been hard on Frias all season, but the guy played one of his best games all season.  I think having Norales and Miller playing center back and letting Frias play his more natural left back really helped him this week.

Sidenote: What kind of find has Miller been this season? I love the Norales and Miller combination in the center back spots.

He didn’t get a lot of minutes, basically just during stoppage time in the second half, but there was an actual Corby Moore sighting.  The guy I wondered if we would ever see again managed to find his way onto the field just in time to be caught up in the pitch invasion as time expired. He took his time leaving the pitch too, just like a lot of the fans who milled around for a while after the invasion wound down.

Insert required pitch invasion videos…

This one requires you to follow the link, but this is from one of the Indy Eleven front office staff who realize that this win was for everybody, players, fans, office staff, everyone associated with the Indy Eleven.

Oh, and if you are wondering, these are your Indy Eleven fans.  The game was a sellout as indicated by the 10,285 attendance figure, but there were some noticeable empty seats throughout the stadium and we saw a lot of people headed out of the stadium in the closing minutes of the game when it became apparent that the team was going to win.  Those are not the people that appreciated the magnitude of the win.  But I digress...

Even the Minnesota fans that made the trip were good sports about the pitch invasion and uploaded some videos for your viewing pleasure. Pay attention to Kristian in the lower right hand corner right after the whistle blows.

I was glad to see that the security personnel took a measured approach to letting the fans rush the field and didn’t try to contain it, only keep it civilized.  I’ve seen at least one remark indicating that it was unnecessary and that the Eleven are still in last place.  I’ve often said that the trend of rushing the court or field has become a little too prevalent, not done at truly appropriate times, and can be attributed to overzealous college kids.  However, this is one of those times where the invasion was necessary and deserved, for both team and fans alike.  This pitch invasion was a release of all the heartbreaks that have plagued this team this year.  Worst team (record wise) beats the best team and does it as the season’s clock winds down on their chances to get the first win?  That’s basically my definition of a valid pitch invasion.  Now I don’t want to see one for a very long time.  Unless, of course, it is because the team goes from worst to first next season and wins The Championship next year.  Then, maybe.

I’m still disappointed in The Stars’ Sunday edition “coverage” of the game.  I get they have deadlines to be able to get it to press, but there’s still a lot more that could have been said of this game than what they did.  Disappointing.

Big picture. Not a lot of written details.

The chances of getting home win #2 isn’t going to be easy with the 2nd ranked team in the league, San Antonio, coming to Carroll Stadium.  Pineda joined Nicht in the NASL Team of the Week for his efforts against Minnesota, but even as the Eleven put two players on the team, San Antonio put three players on the Best XI.  They’re not near the top of the standings by chance.  This is a good team, yet one we all know needed a 93rd minute goal the last time they were here to escape with a win.  So anything is possible.

Though that game seems like a long time ago at this point, with a completely different team.  The Eleven have added 7 new players since that home game in late May, all 7 of which were on the field this past Saturday against Minnesota.  Only Nicht, Norales, Smart, and Moore played in the May game and played this past Saturday.  I have to wonder what the roster will truly look like next year since so many of the “new” guys are on loan from somewhere else.  But I digress again…

To get that second win, the team’s going to need to do what it did against Minnesota.  Don’t have a major defensive lapses, have Nicht play out of his mind again, and attack at key points.  Though that sounds like a recipe for how you go about getting most wins.

What a week!

Team of the Week - Pineda and Nicht included.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Cosmos - 01.23

- Opponent: New York Cosmos
- Location: New York, New York
- Attendance: 6,225
- Final Score: 0-0 T
- Starting XI: Nicht, Norales, Miller, Hyland, Franco, Smart, Pena, Mares, Pineda, Ambersley, Rugg
- Substitutions: Frias 27' (Hyland - Injury), Johnson 69' (Smart), Jhulliam 78' (Mares), Ambersley out with injury 87'
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Ambersley 82' (Yellow), Norales 85' (Yellow)

I'm not sure why the Indy Star couldn't have put together more than 26 words about this game.  I didn't watch anything more than the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, the YouTube highlights video, the Eleven game recap, and the stats for the game and I still saw at least five different things worth mentioning in my first look at everything.

  1. The Cosmos took 7 shots and Nicht made 7 saves on the day, while the Eleven were able to only tally a single official shot on goal.  That effort gives Nicht only his third clean sheet of the season.
  2. Charlie Rugg got his first start for the team only 2 days after being loaned to the team by the L.A. Galaxy II.
  3. Supersub Don Smart made his 6th start for the team, his first in 7 games.
  4. Kyle Hyland started at left back only to have an ankle injury in the 27th minute forcing Coach Sommer to use one of his substitutions early in the game.
  5. That substitution would become important as Mike Ambersley was taken off the field in the 87th minute with a possible concussion.  All three subs had been used at this point, so the Eleven played a man down for the last 3 minutes of regulation + 6 minutes of stoppage time.

All that is not including the fact that the Indy Eleven lost nearly all of the major statistical categories and yet still managed to play the Cosmos to a nil-nil draw. Their third draw of the season against the Cosmos. The third place in the Combined Standings, appear-to-be-safely-in-the-"Championship," defending NASL Champions, Cosmos.

Or the fact that the game was called by one of the most famous voices in American soccer by JP Dellacamera.

Or the fact that before he was injured, Hyland had a great save of a shot off the line in the 13th minute after Nicht was beaten.

Or that Nicht is up for a Play of the Week thanks to a spectacular save in the 76th minute of a penalty kick from 35 yards away that was deflected on its way towards Nicht (Fine.  In the Star's defense, the Plays of the Week were selected after the Sunday edition of the paper would have been printed...)

Maybe they'll have more to say after the Eleven get their first home win in an upset over the top ranked Minnesota United this weekend.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Cosmos - 01.23 - Star Edition

This blog is a labor of love and my desire to write about soccer, typically about the Indy Eleven.  I'm not a writer by education nor profession, but I try to write as well as I can and with as much effort as I'm able to do in my spare time from my normal job and hectic life.  Nor do I get paid to do this in any way, not even with ads on the site.  The extent of my reward is the periodic retweet from Indy Eleven about one of my recaps. The Indy Star, however, is the opposite of all of that.  Well, except maybe the love part.  They are, however, writers and they definitely get paid.  

The Indy Eleven played the New York Cosmos yesterday, albeit in New York, and the Indy Star's Sunday edition went out of their way to let the local fans know *start sarcasm* the intricate details *end sarcasm* of the game on Page 16.

What?  You don't see it?  Here, let me zoom in a bit.

Still having trouble. Let me zoom in even further.

26 words, including the title!  Six of those words are about next week's game against Minnesota.  So take away the title and next week's information, and the Indy Star felt that you could get everything you needed to know about the game against the Cosmos in 15 words, 7 of which were the team names and when the game happened.  You could barely do this in fewer words if you did it using bullet points.

This is a professional team that is drawing capacity crowds and they deserve to be treated as such by their professional local media and not as an afterthought buried in the In Brief section.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Indy Eleven vs RailHawks - 01.22

- Opponent: Carolina RailHawks
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 10,285
- Final Score: 1-0 L
- Starting XI: Nicht, Frias, Norales, Miller, Hyland, Franco, Kleberson (Captain), Pena, Pineda, Ambersley, Jhulliam
- Substitutions: Johnson 59' (Hyland), Smart 67' (Jhulliam), Mares 81' (Kleberson)
- Goals: None
- Bookings: Smart 90' (Yellow)

This game came down to the number one.  One touch too many or one touch too few and one goal too many and one goal too few.  I thought that the cohesiveness by the Eleven was missing and it resulted in guys continually taking one extra touch to get a good pass or shot and not getting either.  Or taking a shot or pass when one extra touch would have set themselves for a better, more effective, effort.  And the dreaded one major defensive lapse resulted in a goal for the RailHawks.

One of my favorite things from these recaps was my screen captures of the New York game where I detailed how the team gave up goals against the Cosmos.  There was only one goal in this game, but it demonstrates how quickly things can turn for this team.

In one of the few moments where I felt Franco overplayed the ball, he found himself trying to chase down the offensive player.  Yet, Norales is in a good position on his man, Miller is tracking his man while being in a position to help Franco, and Frias is in a position to eliminate the pass out to the wing.

I'm not sure why Miller decided to pinch in as much as he did at this point, but it let Albadawi get some space around him before Frias could close in on him.

Pass is made to Albadawi and Norales, Miller, and Franco are all occupying one player while Frias continues to track down Albadawi.

Frias overplays the initial touch by Albadawi...

Perfect shot back across the goal between a mass of defenders.  However, even if it had taken a deflection or if Nicht had been able to get a touch on it, there were two unmarked Carolina players at the back post ready for a tap-in goal since four Eleven players collapsed onto the ball.

A ninety-minute game came down to 5 seconds worth of questionable defense.  That's disappointing because, overall, I thought the defense did a pretty good job of keeping their shape and covering for the mistakes.  Most notably the Norales save when Miller overplayed the ball in the 30th minute.

Other items of note:

  • Cory Miller is a beast in the air.  Has that guy been beaten yet on a ball played through the air?
  • Hyland continues to play well, even with his move to midfield due to the injury to Smith on Friday.
  • "Where's Waldo?" could have been retitled "Where's Kleberson?" for this game.  I don't think he had more than a dozen touches in the entire 80 minutes he played and that might be generous.  

Two more opportunities remain to get that elusive first home win and they just happen to come against Minnesota and San Antonio, the top two teams in the league.  Maybe the team can get a win in NYC to give themselves some confidence before heading back for the final home stand.

Update: Norales was selected as part of the Team of the Week.  Congrats!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

USWNT 2015 World Cup Qualifying roster

Coach Jill Ellis' 20 woman roster was possibly leaked today ahead of the U.S. Women's National Team's qualifying games in the next couple of weeks.  The roster was due to CONCACAF yesterday, but it doesn't look like it was meant for the public just yet.

Notable absences from the recent camp and friendlies include Allie Long, Shannon Boxx, Kristie Mewis, Julie Johnston, Stephanie Cox, Rachel Van Hollebeke, Nicole Barnhart and Alyssa Naeher.

Which leaves the roster as follows:
Goalkeepers - Hope Solo, Ashlyn Harris
Defenders - Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn, Whitney Engen, Ali Krieger, Meghan Klingenberg, Kelley O’Hara, Crystal Dunn
Midfielders - Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Heather O’Reilly, Morgan Brian
Forwards - Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Sydney Leroux, Amy Rodriguez

I'm not completely surprised by the selections with the exception of maybe the midfield because I don't see a natural holding midfield player.  Morgan Brian has been playing it lately, but I think the rest of them feel more comfortable in the attacking midfield role in Ellis' 4-4-2 lineup.  Though she has been toying with a 4-3-3 lineup, so the midfield is a little more fluid in where they are playing.  Given her 4-3-3 lineups, the roster seems about right.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately and I think Coach Ellis should consider doing something radical, especially with the roster that she is bringing to the qualifying games.  Coach Ellis has already started toying with the idea of utilizing her riches at forward with the 4-3-3.  Even if just once, I want to see her scare the crap out of the rest of the world and start a game with a 4-2-4.

Can you imagine the opposing team's reaction if the USWNT took the field and it looked like this;





With A-Rod ready and in fine form to come off the bench and take one of their spots up front when the opposing team's defense has been bombarded with one forward run after another?  That's a defender's nightmare.

What about the riches in midfield sitting on the bench too, you say?  My personal opinion is that Lloyd is a shoot first, pass second midfielder; Heath has spectacular skill but may be a little injured; and O'Reilly has always seemed to be "speed to the endline and then cross" type player.  Great players and great subs for Holiday and Rapinoe for a change of pace, but Holiday and Rapinoe do a better job of controlling the ball and getting the ball from the defense and working it to the forwards.  With O'Hara, Krieger, Dunn, and Klingenberg all capable of making runs from their outside defense positions, there could be times where it looks like a 2-4-4.  Rampone and Sauerbrunn behind all of that, combining to hold down the fort as the best two defenders in the world sitting in front of the best goalie in the world.

When I read Pele's autobiography "My Life and the Beautiful Game", he stated a couple times that during his time with Brazil, their lineup was a 4-2-4.  Attack, attack, and then attack some more.  You win games by scoring goals.  I've said before while watching the USWNT play that there is absolutely no point in games where they take their foot off the gas, no matter the score line.  If there is time left, they are going to try and add one more goal. So why hide it?  Boldly show the other team that they about to be attacked for the full ninety.

I'm not saying that the 4-2-4 would work against every opponent, but it certainly worked for Brazil back then, and I think it would work for the USWNT at times now.  Let Holiday and Rapinoe do what they do best, which is to be playmakers with an offensive tilt and let Sauerbrunn and Rampone clean up the messes that come through, while Wambach, Morgan, Leroux, and Press/A-Rod terrorize the other team's backline.

A guy can dream, can't he?